Hopes at the dawn of the Plenary Council First Assembly
Proposing the Gospel with an Australian face for our time
The long anticipated First Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia is almost here.
“Walking together” (synod/synodality) is the “language” of our Council and of our Church. We are like the Emmaus disciples (Luke 24, journeying but with a sense of anticipation of more to be discovered. We know that this walking together does not simply refer to our feet. It also refers to our hearts. Here Jesus speaks and fills our hearts with fire.
The Plenary Council, therefore, is a time of inner conversion, prayer and formation as we listen deeply to the whisper of the Holy Spirit and to each other. From this journey, we pray, that all sorts of hopeful ways will emerge for proposing the Gospel with an Australian face for our time. This includes our institutions, structures and governance dimensions.
Perhaps, in this regard, Australia’s own unique geography can assist us.
The Working Document (“Continuing the Journey”) used a wonderful allusion to Uluru and our missionary task. It described Christ – the Rock at the Centre. Jesus must be at the very centre of the Plenary Council.
Perhaps, too, our place in the world – Oceania – could be a metaphor for the importance of the waters of Baptism. This is the gateway sacrament from which missionary discipleship and mercy flows, especially with the poor and the oppressed.
The fact, too, that the majority of Australians live on the coastal regions is of pastoral significance. The desert centre of our new but ancient land is largely empty and visited by most Australians as tourists. Do we feel truly “at home” in our land? In its origins, Christianity is a desert religion – a place where the one People of God is formed from scattered individuals and groups. Perhaps the desert is a metaphor for the Australian mysticism that yearns for a fresh and irresistible articulation for our time. Our own First Nations Peoples are crucial to assist us here. “Integral ecology”, as expressed in recent Roman Catholicism, can assist us too in a truly Australian evangelisation of all our peoples.
So let us place all our hopes for the Plenary Council under the protection of the Saints. As the Southern Cross has shone above us over the millennia, may Mary, the Star of evangelisation, lead us to where Jesus wants us to be. In this year dedicated to his patronage, may St Joseph protect us. May the Australian Saint. St Mary of the Cross (MacKillop), teach us how to be real Australian missionaries in our time and place.
Come Holy Spirit of Pentecost.
Come, Holy Spirit of the great south land,
Bless and unite all people of Australia
On the pilgrim way of the Plenary Council.